During one of the debates in the Republican primary for Governor between Rick Perry, Kay Bailey Hutchison, and Debra Medina, in response to somebody’s concern about Texas’ looming budget shortfall, Perry responded (and I’m going by memory here) that he’d already faced this in 2003, and that he wasn’t worried about it this time, because he’d take care of it now the same way he took care of it in 2003.
Problem is, in 2003, the way Perry and the Republican leadership took care of the budget shortfall is that they cut programs benefiting folks who don’t have deep pocket corporate lobbyists. Most notably, children and lower- and middle-income working Texans don’t have those kinds of lobbyists. In a related story, in 2003, they slashed funding for children’s health care, and hundreds of thousands of Texas children went without health insurance coverage, so the Republican leadership could brag that they balanced the budget.
So it’s notable that Perry recently said in the debate that he’d attack the problem now the same way he attacked it then, because then, Texas families felt like they were the ones under attack.
Except that now, the just-passed health care reform bill passed by Congress apparently contains a provision specifically prohibiting states from cutting kids off CHIP or Medicaid.
So who will the Republican leadership victimize next, if they can’t cut health care? What’s important to you? How effective is the lobbyist paid to protect that program? Does your priority even have a lobbyist? How much money did that lobbyist contribute to the Republican leadership?
Are the lobbyists trying to make sure we have quality neighborhood schools as good as the ones representing multinational corporate interests? Can the lobbyists fighting ever-rising college tuition rates go toe-to-toe with the lobbyists representing the big oil and gas companies? Will the lobbyists who want to make sure rural Texans have access to health care be able to prevail against the lobbyists fighting on behalf of electric utility companies?
Rest assured, when a budget shortfall looms, every decision a legislature makes is a zero-sum game: everything one interest gets will be at the expense of another interest. For every dollar I convince the legislature to invest in my deal, they will subtract $1.75 from your deal. So who do you think is protecting your deal, Rick Perry?
Governor Perry is the one who said he’d do it now like he did it before. The Governor should be asked the specifics of what that means between now and November, before Texans wake up the following June after the legislature meets, and sees the price tag of Republican legislative priorities.
When it comes down to it, it will be a lot easier to lobby voters to cast their ballots for Democrats in November, than it will be to lobby legislators to vote for Texas families’ priorities in January.